Note:  All of the material that used to be on this page has been distributed elsewhere.  The description of what BI is and contains is now on the About BI, CRInfo, and The MOOS page; information about CIC is now on the CIC home page.  


For users who are familiar with the "original" Beyond Intractability, our What's New page explains what is new and what is coming. For users new to Beyond Intractability, this page provides background on the system and explains what is available and how it can be useful.

by Heidi Burgess and Guy Burgess

The Beyond Intractability Knowledge Base was developed in the early 2000s by The Conflict Information Consortium, directed by Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess  It was Guy who came up with the initial idea, and Heidi, along with about 50 other people to start with, helped carry that idea out. All of the early participants were concerned about the destructiveness of both domestic US and international conflict problems.  We didn’t think that the traditional conflict resolution approaches (such as mediation and arbitration) were working as well as they needed to on these very difficult conflicts.  Our initial goal was to combine our knowledge and to perhaps produce a “state-of-the-art” book on intractable conflicts.  But the content quickly out-stripped a book, and we agreed that we wanted to reach many more people than those who would buy and read a thick, expensive, and jargon-laden book.  So the online BI knowledge base was born. 

The goal of the Beyond Intractability (BI) system is to make knowledge about the nature of intractable conflicts and constructive approaches to them much more widely and freely accessible, so people aren't forced to "reinvent the wheel." To the extent we can all contribute to a knowledge base on better ways of approaching and transforming intractable conflicts, the closer we can come to limiting the destructiveness of these situations around the world.

The project does not advocate or teach one particular approach. Rather, it provides access to information on many approaches which can then be adapted to many different situations. Our goal is to give people new ideas to think about and new hope. As a free Internet service, BI provides information that is much more affordable and accessible than traditional training programs or hard-to-find books. BI is also constantly growing and changing, making the breadth, depth, and potential of the peacebuilding field more clearly visible.

The knowledge base has grown over the years to the point where it now contains over 400 core articles, which came to be known as “essays.”  These essays cover both the theory relating to causes and effects of intractability, and practice guidelines regarding effective or at least promising ways of addressing them.  (These conflicts are so varied, complex, and difficult that nothing can be promised to be “effective” in all cases.)  But the essays generally present what was consider at the time to be the best-available ideas and strategies both for understanding how these kinds of conflicts develop, and what can be done to address them most constructively.

The editors of BI (Heidi Burgess and Guy Burgess) have, over the last few years, been going through the essays and trying to update them as needed, as many are now 15 years old.  Some are showing their age pretty badly, but many really are still pretty up to date.  For better or worse, not all that much has changed when it comes to understanding the nature of these conflicts, or changing them in constructive ways.

In addition to essays, the knowledge base contains over 100 hours of audio interviews with both scholars and practitioners.  Julian Portilla, the interviewer, sought to get these leaders of the field to talk about their most important discoveries and insights regarding intractable conflict—experiences they have had and ideas they have developed, that they think it is most useful for other people to know.  These interviews are available in both audio and text form.

In addition, BI contains profiles of leading peacebuilders, personal reflections of peacebuilders regarding their own practices, over 100 case studies of particular conflicts and/or interventions, and lastly over 600 summaries of conflict resolution and peacebuilding  books and articles.   Lastly there are pages that have information about education and training in the field, career and funding opportunities, and teaching materials.

All of this is available from the browse page and from the search page.

Since the knowledge base contains an enormous amount of material, we also have provided a number of User Guides.  These guides highlight materials from the KB that are likely to be of particular interest to specific audiences.  For example, we have user guides for journalists, human rights workers, and religious leaders.  We also have guides on particular topic areas, for instance civil rights mediation, identity conflicts, interpersonal conflicts, peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction, and transitional justice (among several others).  

Another iteration on the user guides is a set of checklists of things to think about for intermediaries and adversaries in international conflicts, public policy, workplace, and interpersonal conflicts.  

Conflict Information Consortium

Beyond Intractability was developed and is still maintained by the University of Colorado Conflict Information Consortium, which like BI, is co-directed by Guy Burgess and Heidi Burgess.  The missions of the Consortium and, more specifically, the Beyond Intractability project reflect the convergence of two long-standing streams of work. The first is an exploitation of the unique abilities of Web-based information systems to speed the flow of conflict-related information among those working in the field and the general public. The second is an investigation of strategies for more constructively addressing intractable conflict problems — those difficult situations which lie at the frontier of the field. While much of this work is also applicable to small-scale, tractable disputes, our primary focus is on large-scale conflicts which divide organizations, communities, societies, and nations. We believe that the enormous complexities and destructiveness associated with these conflicts requires a new approach — one which adapts and applies existing insights to new situations, and involves intermediaries and adversaries at all levels of society. Therefore, a key part of our mission is making basic conflict information available to as many people as possible, helping them become aware that there are options available that are far superior to the continuation of destructive and often violent confrontations.

In the past, the Consortium has been involved in a number of projects which contribute directly to this knowledge base. These include CRInfo, the International Online Training Program on Intractable Conflict, the Environmental Framing Consortium on Intractable Conflict, the Stanford/Hewlett Theory Centers Conference on Intractable Conflict, the Civil Rights Mediation Oral History Project, and the Conflict Research Consortium Intractable Conflict Project.